Ute Water Project making progress

Ryan Lengerich

LOGAN — Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority board members said Wednesday they were encouraged by a recent trip to Washington.
Clovis Mayor and ENMRWA board president David Lansford, Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega and ENMRWA program manager Scott Verhines met with both New Mexico senators Nov. 13 to discuss federal funding for the Ute Water Project.
The project will involve constructing a pipeline from Ute Lake to Elida.
Lansford said the three met with Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman for about 45 minutes each and Lansford briefed each senator on the project’s status. Lansford said the senators called for three necessities in the project: A strong conceptual design, communities that can pay expenses, and strong public support.
Lansford said the senators appear to be on board with ENMRWA’s plans.
“They feel like we’re organized,” Lansford said. “I am more optimistic than when we left.”
Lansford said support from Domenici, the chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee under which the funding decision will fall, is especially important.
Ortega called the meeting a “great success,” and said another meeting in Washington could take place in late January or early February. While he did not know exactly what would take place in a second meeting, Ortega said ENMRWA officials could testify before a senate committee.
Following the meeting, about 35 ENMRWA members followed Verhines on a tour of key project locations. Verhines made four stops on the project’s northern end from Ute Lake through San Jon to Caprock.
l Stop one was on Ute Lake south side where raw water would be pumped.
l Stop two was the potential building point for a raw water storage plant, about two miles south of Ute Lake.
l Stop three was about 15 miles southeast of Logan, where an elevated storage tank would be constructed.
l Stop four was south of San Jon at Caprock, where ground storage tanks would be built. Caprock’s 4,900-foot elevation would allow gravity to push water to southern areas.
Verhines said a benchmark date will be Dec. 1 when the New Mexico Water Trust Board could make a recommendation to allocate money to the Ute Water Project. He sad 26 other projects statewide are also vying for money from the state’s water trust fund.
The board’s recommendations will then be sent to the state legislature for consideration.